Learn how photos can be merged to create better pictures
Have you ever taken a series of photos and then realised that there’s something wrong with each of them – some small flaw such as someone has closed their eyes, looked away from the camera or stopped smiling? If so, and you’ve wished there was a way to fix it without getting a degree in photo manipulation, then this workshop is for you.
We’re going to demonstrate how to use Microsoft’s free Windows Live Photo Gallery program to select a series of images before combining the best bits from all of them into a single, composite image – without having to know anything about photo manipulation. It’s easy and the results are surprisingly effective. Photo Gallery works only with Windows Vista or 7, so XP users cannot follow this workshop.
Don’t already have Live Photo Gallery then visit the website. When the page loads, click Essentials and then select Photo Gallery. At the next page, click the blue Download now button and follow the instructions to download and install the program (Photo Gallery and Movie Maker come as a pair, but you don’t have to install any of the other Live Essential programs unless you want to). Once installed, click Start and launch the program. Photo Gallery now scans the computer’s hard disk to find all the photos in the Pictures folder.
When Photo Gallery loads, click the ‘All photos and videos’ heading in the left-hand column and by default, the program will displays thumbnails in the main window sorted by date. Find the photos you want to merge and, if necessary, use the slider at the bottom to zoom in so you can see them more clearly and pick the right ones. Hover the mouse pointer over each picture and when the frame appears, put a tick in the little box to select it. Here we’re choosing three photos.
Having chosen the photos, select the Create tab and then click the Photo Fuse button in the button bar. Photo Gallery takes a moment to align the photos and then displays the first one in the sequence together with a resizable frame in the middle. To the right of that you will see a stack of alternative versions of whatever is displayed in that central frame – these are taken from the other photos we highlighted in the previous step. In this way it’s possible to select part of the picture and then choose the best version.
Select the correct area of the photograph by moving the pointer into the selection square so that it changes from a single arrow into a four-pointed one. Then hold down the Control (Ctrl) key and drag the selection area into the correct position. Then use any of the eight ‘handles’ to reduce the size of the area being selected – we’ve found this produces better results. Scrolling through the alternatives, we can see one where the lady looks happy rather than surprised.
Having chosen a good alternative version of the selected area, fine-tune it and then click on the replacement. As you can see from the picture, with the right material Photo Gallery does a pretty good job of combining the two images to form a new one. If there’s anything else that you would like to change, hover the mouse pointer over the photo so it turns into a cross and then click and draw out a new selection.
You can use the horizontal slider control at the bottom right to zoom in for fine work- and then, when you’re happy with the result, click the Save button at the top left. One flaw with this tool is that there is no ‘undo’ facility – so if you click Cancel you will be taken back to the photo library and will have to start all over again. Give the new picture a name and click the Save button. It will now appear in your photo library along with the original pictures, which remain unchanged.
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